Behind the Wheel: 7 Safety Tips that Might Save Your Life

By Martin Brown

Happy hispanic woman talking mobile phone in carSadly, serious auto injuries happen every day. The good news: most accidents are avoidable. has seven tips that will help keep you and your passengers safe while on the road:

Road Rule #1: Look before your leap into traffic.

It’s been documented that the majority of collisions occur within 4 seconds of a light changing at an intersection. Counting to six prior to putting your foot on the accelerator won’t save you time, but it may save your life.

I know, I know:  you’re worried that the guy in the car behind you may blow his horn to coerce you to get the lead out. To avoid this, stop far enough behind the stop line that you can see it on the pavement in front of your car – this normally gives you 10-15 feet of space. By the time you move forward, you’ll be out of the danger zone—and too far ahead for the few seconds of delay to matter.

Road Rule #2: Have a good back-up plan.

This is especially true when driving through residential neighborhoods where kids chasing balls, for example, have a way of running out in front of cars. They aren’t looking where they’re going. But are you? Be particularly cautious where larger parked vehicles, vans, pick-up and delivery trucks obscure your view of children playing on the street. And before backing up, turn your head to make certain that nothing—and no one—is behind you.

Road Rule #3: Tailgating is no party.

You don’t like close talkers, for a reason. So why are you a close driver? Adequate space gives you time to avoid accidents. That said, go for four seconds of following distance, at a minimum. And be sure to stay out of other cars’ blind spots (on their left or right, around their passenger doors). And if someone is tailgating you, speed up. Better yet, slow down, change lanes and let the driver pass you. Tailgating is a shortcut to an accident, which in most states, is always your fault for the simple reason that when they stop short you hit them from behind. They didn’t back into you.

Road Rule #4: Put young children in constraints—preferably in the middle back seat.

The safest place for a child’s protective seat is in the center of the rear seat. If you’ve got your child’s car seat in the front with you, sorry, move it. Safety wins over convenience. And there’s a reason that left passenger seat is called the “death seat”—not the best place for your child.

Road Rule #5: Let there be headlights.

While only 25% of the miles we drive are at night, about 50% of the fatalities occur during the evening hours—a sad truth for approximately 25,000 people each year. Visibility is especially bad during dawn and twilight—all the more reason to drive with your lights on. Not only will you be able to see better, others will see you, too.

Lights are also important during fog, dust, rain or snow. Particles suspended in the air can blind you. The best lights to use areyour low beams or properly installed fog lamps.

Road Rule #6: Keep a proper amount of tread on your tire.

The old rule of thumb is to insert the head of a penny into the tread of your tire. If it disappears, you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you can see Mr. Lincoln’s head of hair, time for a new set of wheels, literally.

Keeping tires at the correct air pressure is important, too. Why? Because it keeps your suspension aligned properly. Low air in your tires means more wear and tear—which means you’ll have to buy new tires more often.

Road Rule #7: By anticipating, and responding immediately, you can avoid a head-on collision

When faced with a head-on collision, you’ve only got a few seconds to react. Just think about it: two cars traveling at 65 miles per hour will cover a mile of pavement in less than 26 seconds.

By anticipating those places and situations where a head-on collision is possible—wet and slick asphalt, and boring straight stretches of road with passing lanes—and always pay attention to what is happening around you. One way to avoid erratic drivers is to stay away from the center line of a road, give wide berth to other cars, and drive with your lights on.

That said, you can still find yourself facing another vehicle head-on. If that’s the case, the first thing you do is slow down as quickly as you can, without losing control. This reduces any possible impact. If the other driver keeps coming in your lane, go off the road on the right side, not left.

This may stop a head-on collision. However, if it throws you into the path of something else, try to hit off-center, on the side if possible. Sure, you’ll still wreck your car, but the chances are much better that you will live to tell about it.


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